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Posts Tagged ‘European Union’

New Mission Commander for EU training mission in Somalia

Posted by African Press International on December 18, 2013

BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, December 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – Brigadier General Massimo Mingiardi was today appointed new Mission Commander for the EU training mission in Somalia (EUTM Somalia).

General Mingiardi, from Italy, will take up his duties on 15 February 2014. He will succeed Brigadier General Gerald Aherne, who had been in the position since February


EUTM Somalia, launched in spring 2010, has contributed to training about 3,600 Somali troops so far, with a special focus on officers, specialists and trainers. It is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach for a stable, democratic and prosperous Somalia and embedded in the EU strategic framework for the Horn of Africa.

The mission provides specialised military training and mentoring in the training domain. It also delivers political and strategic advice to the Somali ministry of defence and the chief of defence forces and advises on security sector development. This is to lay the foundations of a Somali-owned military training system. In the first months of 2014, the mission is set to conduct all its advisory, mentoring and training activities in Mogadishu,


Today’s decision was taken by the EU’s Political and Security Committee.

Brigadier General Massimo MIGIARDI

Brigadier General Massimo Mingiardi was born In 1963 in Florence. He joined the Army in 1982 and was commissioned Into the Airborne Brigade Folgore as a Platoon

Commander In 1986, after completing the four-year course at the Military Academy In

Modena and at the School of Military Studies In Torino. After two years he was appointed as an Instructor to the Military Academy.

In 1991 he was commissioned as a Company Commander In the Airborne School in Plsa.

In 1992 he was appointed as a Company Commander In the 186°Airborne Regiment In

Siena and with his company took part in Operation RESTORE HOPE and In UNISOM II In Somalia. After one year at the war college , 1994 to 95, he was appointed as a staff officer to the General Army Staff In the Intelligence Branch until 1998:

From 1998 to 1999 he attended the Joint Senior Staff Course and after one year as a staff officer In the General Defence Staff, he commanded the 5th Airborne Battalion In Siena from 1999 to 2001 taking part In Operation JOINT GUARDIAN In Kosovo.

From 2001 to 2006 he was appointed as Chief of Section In the J5 Plans Division In the IT

Joint Operations Headquarters (Italy’s PJHQ equivalent). From 2006 to 2008 he commanded the 183°Airborne Regiment Nembo In Plstola (Tuscany).

He joins the Royal College of Defence Studies In London upon completing two years as Chief of J5 Plans Division at the Italian Joint Operations Headquarters in Rome.

In October 2011 was appointed as Commander of Airborne Brigade Folgore.

From Aprll2013 Is the Deputy Commander of Infantry School.

He graduated in Political Science at Bologna University and In Military Studies at Torino University. He got a Master In Strategic Science at Torino University and a Master In International Strategic and Military Studies at Milano University.

He attended the European Security Defence Polley Orientation ourse. He enjoys a wide variety of sports (in particular skydiving} and hobbies.


European Council


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EU commits to funding the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic

Posted by African Press International on December 10, 2013

BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, December 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – As the political and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) has progressively deteriorated for more than a year now, the European Commission has continued to mobilise its development aid to help people and improve their security.

On 5 December 2013 the Poliitical and Security Committee of the EU endorsed a request from the African Union (dated 21 November 2013) addressed to the European Union for funding of €50 million for the African-led International Support Mission in the CAR (AFISM-CAR). “The AFISM-CAR will contribute to the stabilization of the country and the protection of local populations, creating conditions conducive to the provision of humanitarian assistance and the reform of the security and defence sector”, said European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs.


European Commission

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Posted by African Press International on November 10, 2013

NEW YORK, November 7, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the National Assembly of Niger, in Niamey, 6 November:

It is a distinct privilege to address the Members of the National Assembly of Niger. It is particularly meaningful to do so with Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, and Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. We are joined by Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development of the European Union, and my Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi.

Together, we are on a journey of solidarity with the people of the Sahel. We are here to listen — and we are here to act.

Our message is simple and clear. It is drawn from many years of experience around the world. Peace is not sustainable without development. Development is not sustainable without peace. The two challenges must go hand in hand. And so, we have come to Niger to join hands with you.

The United Nations is proud to have worked with the people of Niger over the years to forge sustainable solutions. We are teaming up to accelerate progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals — including through the ambitious agricultural transformation plan, the 3N Initiative — Nigeriens Feeding Nigeriens.

We are committed to assisting in your efforts to advance good governance and build effective, trustworthy institutions. We are partnering to support your initiatives to expand opportunities and sustainable livelihoods, particularly for young people. We are resolved to do all we can to open doors for the women and girls of Niger — to quality schools, good jobs, safe communities, decent health care and greater political participation, including here in this parliament.

Earlier today, I was pleased to join President [Mahamadou] Issoufou’s call to action on demographic issues. I am doing my part at the United Nations to empower women. For the first time in history, five UN peacekeeping operations are led by women. I selected a distinguished daughter of Niger, Aïchatou Mindaoudou Souleymane, to head our mission in Côte d’Ivoire — one of the largest in the world. She is doing an outstanding job. I am proud of her and I know you are, too.

Niger is contributing to global peace and security in so many other ways. I pay tribute to the almost 2,000 brave Nigerien citizens serving in United Nations peacekeeping operations — from Mali to Haiti, from the Democratic Republic of Congo and beyond. I honour the memory of the 19 who lost their lives serving under the UN flag. I also appreciate Niger’s continued assistance to thousands of Malians who have taken refuge in your country.

Throughout the Sahel, we see instability and unrest, more people being displaced, rising food and fuel prices, severe drought and people sacrificing everything to migrate for greater opportunity.

I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of those who so tragically perished in the Sahara last week. Even had they survived the desert crossing, we know their journey would have remained treacherous. Their hopes for a better life may have remained simply a mirage.

Our debt to them must be a solemn commitment to prosecute the human smugglers who stole their lives, to address the food crises that plague Niger, to improve conditions in the communities from which they came so that others do not feel compelled to leave, and to create safe opportunities for willing migrants to work abroad. The United Nations is devoted to protecting human rights, and the rights of migrants are of urgent concern to me.

Across these complex and difficult challenges, the people of Niger and the Sahel are teaching the world something very important. You are proving that problems can no longer be confined within borders, and so solutions must also rise above dividing lines — across borders and bureaucracies, across communities and cultures, across politics and parties.

This is our twenty-first century test. We must dig deeper to get at the root causes of conflict. In the Sahel, those roots can be traced to scarcities of water and food, pressures on land, the lack of development and rampant insecurity. We must deal with these issues in a comprehensive way — not merely as isolated, unrelated problems of armed conflict, political instability or economic development.

That is why our United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel is based on identifying crucial connections — and supporting your efforts to drive hard at them with well-coordinated solutions.

As representatives closest to the people of Niger, you are essential to success. You are the crucial link between the local and global. As part of our strategy, we are working to establish a regional platform of parliamentary committees to share experiences, discuss common challenges and define common priorities. We want to help strengthen parliaments and empower all political parties to build a culture of peace across the Sahel. We invite your active engagement.

No country or organization can do it alone. We must work together so that we hear all voices, take in all political views and build peace and stability that lasts. That is the twenty-first century test that Niger and the Sahel are putting forward to the world. Together, let us join forces and pass this test. Together, let us take strength from your great country’s motto: “Fraternité, Travail, Progrès”. Thank you.





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Donors react: Government corruption killing development in Malawi

Posted by African Press International on October 30, 2013

LILONGWE, – Extensive looting of public funds by government officials in Malawi has dangerously undermined the country’s public health sector, with hundreds of public health workers striking in recent weeks to protest late payments of their September salaries.

The delays were the result of a financial scandal involving government officials who exploited loopholes in a government payment system to make fraudulent deposits into the accounts of companies that did not have government contracts. Up to 20 billion kwacha (US$5.3 million) was siphoned from public funds, according to the Financial Intelligence Unit, a government organ.

The health worker strike, which started in early October, crippled operations at public hospitals, which are also experiencing depleted budgets for essential medical equipment and drugs.

“My three-year-old daughter had a fever, and I went to our district hospital to seek medical attention, but I came back without any. I found the staff at the hospital just lying around,” said Laurine Mwangupili of Karonga District, in Malawi’s Northern Region. “They told us that they could not attend to patients because they had not been paid their salaries.”

A health worker at the hospital, who did not wish to be named, said all the facility’s technical staff – including nurses, clinical officers and medical assistants – participated in the strike.

Workers at the country’s two largest referral hospitals – Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre – and at Dedza and Salima district hospitals also went on strike after the salary delays. They said they would be willing to strike again if this month’s salaries are delayed.

Striking workers who IRIN spoke to said that they had been threatened with eviction from their homes because they could not pay their rent. Some teachers also experienced delays in their September salaries as a result of the scandal.

“Crippled” because of corruption

Martha Kwataine, executive director of the NGO Malawi Health Equity Network, raised the alarm over the effect of corruption on the already underfunded health sector earlier this year.

“We have been saying that the health sector in this country is being crippled because of corruption,” Kwataine told IRIN. “As a country, we cannot retain specialist medical personnel because we lose our money this way. As a result, we keep sending patients to countries like Tanzania to receive specialized treatment” for diseases like cancer.

She added that the issue of corruption went beyond the late payment of salaries, and that it was exacerbating shortages of essential medical supplies, including drugs, which are “currently lacking in a number of hospitals.”

The Medical Doctors Union of Malawi also protested the looting in a statement, noting: “It is disheartening and utterly frustrating that while government is struggling to ensure constant availability of essential medicines and supplies in public hospitals, largely due to inadequate funds, some individuals within the same public service are finding it so easy to access the same inadequate funds for their own personal benefits.”

In September, IRIN witnessed patients at Nkhata Bay District Hospital being served a thin porridge instead of the usual meals of ‘nsima’ (a thick maize-meal porridge) or rice. Hospital authorities said the change was a result of poor funding to the facility, which had worsened since August.

Donors react

The impacts of the high-level fraud, which local media are calling “Cashgate”, are likely to be felt for months to come as international donors, who make up 40 percent of Malawi’s national budget and are particularly important to the health sector, threaten to pull out of the country.

Norway has already suspended its aid, while Germany has urged the government to track down those responsible, and the European Union (EU) has threatened to withhold $39 million of aid in December unless the corruption allegations are dealt with. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced on Monday that it is withholding $20 million in extended credit facility to Malawi until December.

Since Malawi’s Anti- Corruption Bureau uncovered the scam in early September, the government has shut down the payment system used to carry out the fraud, and 10 government officials have been arrested on charges of money laundering. On 10 October, President Joyce Banda dissolved her entire cabinet. Most of her 32-member cabinet was reappointed, with the exception of the ministers of finance, justice, and industry and trade.

History of corruption

Corruption has been a chronic problem in Malawi, with each of the country’s previous presidents pledging to root it out only to be connected to corruption after leaving office.

The first president elected in multiparty polls in 1994, Bakili Muluzi, is currently answering charges of diverting 1.7 billion kwacha ($4.5 million) of donor money into his own pocket. His successor, Bingu wa Mutharika, has been posthumously accused of building a 61 billion kwacha ($163 million) estate during the eight years he ruled the country. Most of that money is suspected to have been looted from state coffers, as he declared just 136 million kwacha ($363,000) in assets when he assumed office in 2004.

Under Mutharika, Malawi also had an uneasy relationship with its donors. In 2011, the UK froze its aid to the country after a diplomatic spat.

Since assuming office in April 2012, Banda has worked hard to mend relations with donors, but these gains may now have been lost.

sm/ks/rz source


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Markets in smaller countries could be under threat: Need to reopen talks on subsidies at WTO

Posted by African Press International on October 24, 2013

Markets in smaller countries could be under threat

JOHANNESBURG,  – The combined effects of the global economic slowdown and increasing climatic shocks are threatening food security in developing countries, prompting many to re-open World Trade Organization (WTO) discussions on limits to support for farmers.

A group of developing countries – known as G33 – is asking to exceed their agreed domestic support limits when they buy, stock and supply cereals and other food to boost food security among the poor; they want these changes to be exempt from any legal challenge.

Essentially, these countries want the freedom to buy grains at set prices from producers and to use that grain to build stockpiles for distribution. The WTO rules do not prescribe limits on the amount of food that can be bought at market prices for food stocks, and it does not limit the amount of food that can be provided as domestic food aid at subsidized prices. The WTO only disciplines buying cereals at administered prices.

The proposal will be discussed at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December.

Developed countries and some developing countries are concerned that the G33 proposal – which is backed by India, China and Indonesia – could affect food security in neighbouring countries. They fear these measures could lead to surpluses in stocks, which the G33 members might dump in the global market, disrupting global prices.

Ashok Gulati, chairman of India’s Commission for Agriculture Cost and Prices (CACP), reckons India wants more leeway to provide support for its farmers and consumers because the government is launching a massive subsidized food scheme through a public distribution system that will reach two-thirds of its population – nearly 800 million people. He told IRIN that a situation where India would be in a position to dump excess stocks could arise “once in 10 years.” He added, “the larger distortion will be domestic,” referring to disruptions to local markets.

A representative from one of the G33 countries at the WTO, who did not want to be named, said not all the members of the group were supportive of the proposal. “India is already the largest exporter of rice in the world… Small exporters will lose their competitiveness because of Indian subsidies… Rice prices are already going down, and with further subsidies it can lead to a price crash,” the representative said.

The delegate estimated that support for rice production in India – both in the form of agricultural inputs and procurement – ran into billions of dollars. Even more support could “ruin” agriculture sustainability and “create food insecurity instead of food security” in the region.

“Although agricultural markets have evolved dramatically since 2007, global trade rules have not”

Gulati has publicly come out against the government’s plan to stockpile staple grains because of the effect it would have on prices in the local markets, according to interviews with the Indian daily theEconomic Times and news agency DNA.

He maintains that dispensing subsidized food will not address malnutrition, a significant problem in India, where almost half the population of children are malnourished. Gulati believes this problem can only be addressed by comprehensively tackling the various dimensions of food insecurity, such as by increasing access to clean water and improving the status of women.

But a new paper, produced jointly by the Geneva-based International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), takes a sympathetic view of positions on both sides, and uses the proposal to flag the need to reform global agricultural trade rules. The paper contends there has been minimal reform to agricultural trade rules since the Uruguay Round of multilateral negotiations that led to the formation of the WTO two decades ago.

“The G33 proposal can more broadly be seen as symptomatic of the challenges many countries face in designing policies to achieve food security goals in the new price environment,” the paper notes.

“Although agricultural markets have evolved dramatically since 2007, global trade rules have not,” it adds.

To subsidize or not

Agricultural subsidies have been a contentious issue for years. The WTO has placed ceilings on how much the US and the European Union (EU) can spend on agricultural subsidies that distort trade, but these are still rather high, food rights groups say.

A drought in the US in 2012 and fluctuating food prices have led policy-makers there and in the EU to rethink protection and support for their farmers, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) pointed out.

The US’s agriculture policy is governed by the Farm Bill, which is updated every four years, but the 2008 legislation was extended to September 2013, when the two parties – the Democrats and the Republicans – were unable to come to an agreement on subsidized food for the country’s poor. The new proposed bill recommends an expanded insurance programme with new crop insurance subsidies, which would see farmers receive money when income from certain crops falls below a targeted level. It also sets higher target prices for crops that trigger payments when revenues fall for several consecutive years. The bill is likely to come up for negotiations in the coming weeks.

The EU has largely done away with export subsidies that support the disposal of surplus production abroad, but the EU Common Agriculture Policy still ensures high levels of direct support to farmers and protects EU markets. The EU has substantially reformed farm support over the years to reduce its impacts on trade and production, but some still question whether the support provided continues to give European producers an advantage over competitors elsewhere.

On the other hand, the economic slowdown and its impact on local currencies have forced developing countries like Zambia to remove subsidiesfor farmers and millers because the expenditure is perceived as draining the country’s limited resources.

More imbalances?

If richer nations are strengthening support to their farmers while the poorer countries cut back, could global imbalances grow?

Jamie Morrison, a senior economist with FAO and a co-author of the ICTSD/FAO paper, says that, generally, when considering support to farmers in times of disasters, countries should take into account the kind of support they have to fall back on. In rich countries, farmers have access to insurance and other safety nets, which might not be the case in developing countries.

He says rich countries use public funding to “underwrite potential losses [for farmers] which private sector insurance institutions may be less willing to cover. This type of support is considered to be less distortive of markets and trade.”

But developing countries tend to intervene directly in the market to stabilize prices for their producers while providing their consumers “with some level of protection against high food prices”, Morrison said. This generally leads to buying grains at prices above the market value and managing cross-border trade. This support not only drains the country’s coffers but “is considered to be distortive of markets and trade.”

Often these subsidies, whether in the form of cheaper agricultural inputs or higher prices for produce, do not get to the intended poorest farmers, and they are often driven by political opportunism – appeasing the majority of the people in developing countries who depend on agriculture for income and food.

“…for many countries, direct support for farmers ‘may be essential in facilitating agricultural transformation’ and the ‘only practical option available given weaknesses’ in other public institutions that could have supported production”

CACP’s Gulati, who formerly headed IFPRI’s Asia office, said, “Subsidies on fertilizer, power and irrigation are not targeted. Subsidies have risen much faster than public investments in agriculture [in India]. The marginal return on subsidies is less than one-fourth of that from investments. Yet subsidies multiply due to higher political returns. So India wants more leverage on subsidies.”

Yet Morrison adds that, for many countries, direct support for farmers “may be essential in facilitating agricultural transformation” and the “only practical option available given weaknesses” in other public institutions that could have supported production. “Greater use of a system more reliant on market-based instruments may make a more efficient use of resources, but may be impractical at the current time”.

Jonathan Hepburn, agriculture programme manager with ICTSD says, “WTO rules need to take into account the reality that countries are in different situations, and that some have fewer resources at their disposal to achieve public policy objectives. “


In the recent past, negotiating groups at the WTO have sought preferential treatment. The least developed countries (LDCs), for instance, are negotiating to enjoy some flexibility in their implementation of import tariffs on agricultural products. However, even the LDCs face limits on the amounts and kinds of subsidies they provide – although many lack the resources to provide the amount of farm support that would be capped by WTO rules, points out ICTSD’s Hepburn.

Part of the problem in creating new rules on trade, Hepburn said, has “been striking a balance between the rights and responsibilities of different groups of countries – especially as the global economic landscape has evolved dramatically over the last decade or so.”

In December, according to the WTO, countries might decide on a “temporary “waiver” (a formal legal exemption allowing some member states to exceed their limits), a non-binding political statement by the conference’s chairperson or some option in between. Flexibility along these lines has sometimes been called a “peace clause” or “due restraint”, because members would avoid bringing legal disputes against developing countries in these circumstances.”



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Legal migration options needed – Migrants have been losing their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean on unseaworthy, overcrowded vessels for years

Posted by African Press International on October 23, 2013

A boat carrying migrants arrives at the Lampedusa port, escorted by the coastguard (file photo)

JOHANNESBURG,  – Migrants have been losing their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean on unseaworthy, overcrowded vessels for years, but until two weeks ago, their deaths rarely generated headlines. The sheer scale of the tragedy that occurred off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa on 3 October, however, was hard to ignore.

A boat, which disembarked from Libya carrying an estimated 500 Eritrean asylum seekers, was only half a mile from Lampedusa’s coast when it caught fire and capsized. So far, Italian authorities have pulled over 350 bodies from the water.

The disaster has precipitated much discussion about what the European Union (EU) and its members states should be doing to prevent further loss of migrant lives at sea, even as the death toll in the Mediterranean continues to mount, with dozens of Syrian and Palestinian refugees losing their lives on 11 October when another boat capsized between Malta and Lampedusa.

Compared to last year, 2013 has seen a marked increase in the numbers of migrants attempting sea crossings to Italy and Malta. While some 15,000 migrants and asylum seekers reached the two southern Mediterranean countries in 2012, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), over 32,000 have arrived so far this year. The spike in numbers of migrants using the so-called Central Mediterranean route – which usually involves departures from Libya, but also includes those from Egypt and the Turkish coast – is not unprecedented. Following the collapse of the governments in Tunisia and Libya in 2011, 60,000 migrants used the route, with most of them arriving inLampedusa.

The Italian website Fortress Europe, which tracks migrant deaths, estimates that since 1988, nearly 20,000 people have died trying to penetrate Europe’s borders, the vast majority of them at sea.

Responsibilities unclear

Most of the discussion since the recent tragedies has focused on increasing search-and-rescue capacity. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom proposed that the role of EU border agency Frontex be expanded from the patrols it currently coordinates off the Italian coast to span the entire Mediterranean. Such a move could address the current lack of clarity surrounding which countries are responsible for rescuing boats in distress and where their occupants should disembark. But the six member states with Mediterranean coastlines have already voiced their opposition to a proposed regulation that would govern Frontex-coordinated operations, arguing that international laws already deal with such matters.

“Prospects for it to be adopted soon are quite low,” said Kris Pollet, a senior legal and policy officer with the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE). “There’s no real sign that this is going to be a decisive moment.”

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has just approved a new state-of-the-art border surveillance programme called Eurosur, which will implement a system for monitoring the EU’s external borders and sharing information between various national border security agencies. Eurosur will launch in December and, according to Malmstrom, could also be used to more quickly identify migrant boats in distress.

However, Philip Amaral of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe pointed out that Eurosur has been in the pipeline for several years, long before the recent tragedy in Lampedusa. “The real basis is to tighten borders and prevent irregular migration; there’s a heavy emphasis on the use of satellite imagery and drones,” he told IRIN.

“A byproduct could be that more lives would be saved at sea, but it doesn’t establish clear lines in terms of which countries are responsible for migrant boats in distress. We think it’s a missed opportunity,” he said.

Amaral also lamented the fact that the Eurosur regulation does not include language that would absolve ship masters from criminal responsibility when rescuing migrant boats. “In Italy, they’re very reluctant to rescue ships in distress because they fear, rightly so, that they’ll be prosecuted” for aiding irregular migration, he said.

Ensuring that shipmasters cannot be prosecuted for facilitating the smuggling of migrants is among a list of 10 urgent measures that UNHCR is calling for to prevent further loss of life and increase burden sharing across the EU.

“It is shameful to witness hundreds of unwitting migrants and refugees drowning on Europe’s borders,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres in a 12 October statement. He expressed particular concern that Syrian asylum seekers were among the casualties of recent boat tragedies. “They escaped bullets and bombs only to perish before they could ever claim asylum,” he said.

In the absence of any EU-wide agreement on how to handle irregular migration across the Mediterranean, Italy announced on 14 October that it would triple its air and sea presence in the southern Mediterranean to better respond to potential shipwrecks. The following day, Italian authorities reported that 370 migrants had been rescued from three boats in the waters between Libya and Sicily.

Amaral welcomed the move by Italy but emphasized that the responsibility for search and rescue should be shared with other member states. “The EU is all about solidarity, so it can’t just be left to Italy and Malta. Other countries need to pitch in and help out,” he said.

Legal migration options needed

EU Commissioner Malmstrom has joined migrant rights organizations in pointing out that, in the longer term, the only way to discourage migrants and asylum seekers from paying smugglers to take them across the Mediterranean in rickety vessels is to provide them with more legal channels for entering Europe.

“Currently there’s no political will for opening the doors of Europe and mainstream public opinion is very far from that”

However, Pollet of ECRE said there was little willingness among member states to even engage in a debate about opening up legal channels for low-skilled migrants and asylum seekers to enter Europe. “At the moment, it’s a very hypocritical approach,” he said.

“The whole discussion is focusing now on increased search and rescue capacity and trying to prevent irregular migration; it’s really focused on the symptoms of the problem rather than the root causes. There’s very little talk about how are these people supposed to get into Europe.”

Amaral agreed. “There is definitely a needed [legal] channel, especially for asylum seekers,” he said. “But currently there’s no political will for opening the doors of Europe and mainstream public opinion is very far away from that.”

ks/rz sourcce


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In May 2003 Indonesia’s President Megawati Sukarnoputri declared martial law in Aceh to flush out the fighters, leading to a period of “extrajudicial executions

Posted by African Press International on October 11, 2013

Mohammed Jafar – still waiting on peace returns

ACEH/JIJIEM,  – Joining a rebellion is not a typical career move. Yet up to 26,000 people in Indonesia spent years working for a separatist rebellion that lasted nearly 30 years in northern Sumatra. Children followed their parents into battlefields and war rooms. Sons went abroad for training. Upon leaving the force, a number received payment.

But any similarities with gainful employment end there.

In May 2003 Indonesia’s President Megawati Sukarnoputri declared martial law in Aceh to flush out the fighters, leading to a period of “extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, beatings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and drastic limits on freedom of movement”, according to Human Rights Watch.

An estimated 15,000 lives (from both sides) were lost during the war, which caused nearly US$10 billion in damage – roughly twice that of the 2004 tsunami.

Shortly after the tsunami hit the archipelago (the epicentre of the earthquake causing the tsunami was just west of the conflict zone, which bore the heaviest death and damage toll from the tsunami in the region), the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) declared a ceasefire.

IRIN met four former rebels to learn where they are eight years after GAM signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the government that granted Aceh (now “Special Region of Aceh”) control over most areas of governance, excluding defence, foreign affairs and justice, among others.

The region is entitled to 70 percent of revenues from natural resources (land and sea). The peace deal pledged new local elections and identity cards. It was hailed as a success internationally, and eight years later, delegations are still coming from Sudan, Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka to learn how to broker peace after protracted fighting.

As part of the 2005 deal, 3,000 fighters (the number according to the pact) turned in 840 weapons and were each paid US$2,500 (at the December 2005 exchange rate).

In addition, the government paid another near $1,000 to 10,000 fighters who surrendered before the MOU signing. Research conducted for the European Union (EU)-led Aceh Monitoring Mission [ ] that followed the implementation of the peace pact calculated a total of 14,000 front-line fighters in 17 districts under GAM control, and another 12,000 people who played supporting roles in fighting.

The university spy
Eliyani binti Wahid, 29

Eliyani binti Wahid

Where she is now: A married stay-at-home mother of three, occasional small business shopkeeper and tutor for a programme to help other former rebels pass secondary-school certification exams.

Where she was then: Shortly before her father, a rebel commander, was killed in a government crackdown that started in May 2003, he sent her to the University of Medan in north Sumatra where she studied political science, while gathering sensitive information from military and police officers who did not suspect her GAM ties.

“I married in 2004. My husband [not affiliated with GAM] had no idea. There were lots of women in my [mountain village of Tangse] who joined the rebellion. Some fought, but most of us carried out intelligence work. I had weapons training from my father’s friends, but I never fought…

“Was it worth it? We did not get 100 percent of what my father was fighting to get. I would say we got about 30 percent. Even though we don’t have independence, our lives have improved. It is good enough. His death was not in vain.”

The child soldier
Irwansyah, 39 (nom de guerre: Teungku Machsalmina)

Irwansyah, a former commander of Free Aceh Movement, with his family in Banda Aceh

Where he was then: Joined GAM at the age of 10, rising through the ranks to become a central commander and, after the 2005 ceasefire, a rebel representative in the 2005-06 EU-led monitoring mission.

Where he is now: Founder of a breakaway political party in Aceh (National Aceh party) and law student.

“The 2005 peace deal has worked militarily. We all disarmed and the military pulled out of Aceh – but still there is no justice. The 70/30 split in revenues does not identify what types of revenue qualify. There is not yet truth and reconciliation, or any accountability for human rights abuses…

“When other governments ask me why we were willing to disarm, I tell them that we trusted our political leaders, and that it’s important to involve people from civil society in the peace deal discussions rather than just rebels and the government…

“We did not achieve independence, but that does not only mean statehood, but also freedom of press and speech as well as justice. That is also independence. And we are still fighting for it, just through different means. I am not tempted to take up arms again. With democracy, we don’t need to. But if we don’t get things right, it is imaginable that our children will need to take up arms again.”

The low-ranking fighter
Mohamed Jafar, 32

Where he was then: Dropping out of his final year of secondary school, he joined GAM at age 17 because he “admired the fighters”.

Where he is now: A farmer living in the Acehnese village of Jijiem, which was GAM’s headquarters. He earns $100-$200 monthly from selling rice and nuts in his village, where he lives with his parents and five siblings.

“Roads have not improved, but our livelihoods have, because farmers can go to paddies without fear of fighting. But there still is not much development here even though it is the heart of GAM’s [former] command centre.

“I fought for independence and though things did not turn out as I had hoped, I am not sure where to turn to demand change. The commanders don’t care. I am upset, but I am just a low-ranking fighter, so I accept. Life would be better if we won independence. It would be easier to get work, and revenue earned here would be for the Acehnese.

“I never received any money as part of the peace deal or any job training. Maybe my commander kept my money. I tried to get it from him, but he does not care. That’s just how things are. I can’t demand what I wasn’t given.”

The deputy
Kamaruddin Abubakar, 47 (nom de guerre: Abu Razak)

Kamaruddin Abubaka

Where he was then: A second-generation rebel, he was sent to Libya in 1988 for weapons training for 15 months where he stayed on as a personal guard to then President Muammar Gaddafi before returning to Aceh to recruit and train fighters. He moved up to deputy commander when the top field leader, Abdullah Syafi’ie, was killed in 2002.

Where he is now: Following the peace deal signing, he farmed cocoa and palm sugar for two years, before joining politics as deputy chief of Aceh Party, comprised mostly of former rebels. He still manages his farm and has a business distributing sugar and fertilizer in Aceh, for which he earns from $90 up to $9,000 monthly.

“When the government declared martial law [in 2003] the army hunted for me, even tracking down my wife to her classroom where she taught. I went into hiding in the jungle and sent my family [wife and three children] to the city for safety. When the tsunami hit [in 2004] all my family was killed…

“It is hard to believe any fighters did not receive money. Some people claimed to be former GAM on the day after the agreement was signed. We call them ‘GAM 16’ [agreement signed on 15 August]…

“Criticism is free for all parties and government. This is what a democracy is. It is not true we ignore former fighters. The military structure exists even though we are not at war. They still follow us.”

pt/cb  source

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Most slum dwellers lack titles to the land they live on

Posted by African Press International on October 8, 2013

Most slum dwellers lack titles to the land they live on and, are often faced with the risk of forced evictions

NAIROBI,  – Development projects such as new roads, or dams to boost electricity production, must ensure that the human rights of those evicted are not trampled, say campaigners, who are urging international donors to do more to insist that those affected receive adequate compensation and protection.

Population growth, urbanization and pressure on the land could make such evictions more common in Africa in the future, hence the need for a strictly implemented legal code, they say.

In a report released today, Amnesty International (AI) estimates that a quarter of the 12,000 residents of Deep Sea, an informal settlement in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, face eviction without compensation over the construction of a link road.

“Our families have lived in Deep Sea for years, but recently, we just saw government surveyors come here and they told us a road will pass through our residences. We are living in fear because we haven’t been consulted, and we don’t know when they will come to do the evictions,” Diana Angaya, who has lived in Deep Sea for the past 25 years, told IRIN.

“We are not against the road, but we are asking that those who are affected are provided with alternative land to settle.”

The Kenya Urban Roads Authority is in the process of finding a firm to build the 17km road, which will cost 27 million euros. It is hoped the European Union (EU) will fund 65 percent of the project.

In a separate incident in Nairobi in May some 400 families were evicted from the Carton City informal settlement near Wilson Airport, after a private educational institution laid claim to the land on which they were living. The eviction was carried out by hired youths under the supervision of the police.

“Development organizations like the EU which is funding the bypass expected to pass through the Deep Sea settlement in Nairobi where poor people face evictions must ensure that they pressure the government to respect human rights and uphold the basic standards on evictions as is enshrined in international laws,” Iain Byrne, head of AI’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, told IRIN.

“They have the leverage to ensure governments which they fund, including that of Kenya, uphold human rights including when doing evictions for development projects.”

“Amnesty International is concerned that the EU is not sufficiently engaged with the process for mitigating potential negative impacts of the road construction project and ensuring that the project is implemented in a manner that respects and protects human rights,” said the AI report.

“The absence of explicit policy guidelines for ensuring that projects such as Missing Link 15B do not result in human rights violations is a serious shortcoming and further heightens the organization’s concern. The EU and its member states have a responsibility to ensure that they do not support projects that cause or contribute to human rights violations,” it added.

In a statement the EU said: “Kenyan authorities will implement a comprehensive and transparent Resettlement Action Plan for people currently living or operating businesses within the project area, and that this will include `fair and legally compliant compensation’.”

Kenya’s Resettlement Action Plan, which documents how those affected will be resettled, only stipulates that transport away from the area where they currently reside will be free. Deep Sea residents appear not to have been consulted.

In Ethiopia, a World Bank inspection panel called for investigations into a World Bank funded villagization project after reports that it had violated the bank’s policies regarding respect for human rights. The project involved the forced relocation of some 1.5 million Ethiopians, including indigenous and other marginalized peoples, and has been marred by violence.

Corruption, weak laws

Experts like Aggrey Nyange, an urban planning lecturer at the University of Nairobi, told IRIN that while it is incumbent upon donors and/or governments to protect the poor against forced evictions, there is a need for countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia to enact laws that protect evictees.

International development organizations could be reluctant to call for respect for rights in evictions because they might be expected to go out of their way to pay the compensation money,” said Nyange, adding that even in cases where there are agreements between the funding organization and the recipient government on the need to follow due process, many African governments might not be honest in their dealings.

“At times a donor agency will say, you have to consult the affected community, but governments will simply send officials in the area to bulldoze the poor and claim full consultations happened. The only sure way is to enact laws to outlaw forced evictions,” he said.

According to Justus Nyangaya, head of AI in Kenya, while certain evictions are legally justified, forced evictions required legal frameworks setting out how they should be carried out.

“Some of those evictions happen following a court order and such orders have to be obeyed, but the police must do them according to the law. Such a law guiding them must be in place and put into consideration internationally accepted standards of carrying out evictions,” Nyangaya, said.

In past evictions in Kenya only those with title deeds to the land they lived on received any government compensation.

ko/cb  source

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Newly built latrines in Myanmar – but will they be working in 12 months?

Posted by African Press International on September 20, 2013

Newly built latrines in Myanmar – but will they be working in 12 months?

STOCKHOLM,  – The success in achieving the Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) water target and massive growth in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes have masked a little-discussed secret: WASH interventions frequently fail.

Rather than focusing on what is almost literally pouring money down the drain, donor reports and NGO websites prefer instead to boast of the numbers of water pumps drilled or toilets installed.

“You don’t take photos at a funeral,” said Dutch water expert George De Gooijer, who is based at the Netherlands’ embassy in Benin. “The lack of a link between results on the ground and the proposals is the one that needs to be solved.”

In 2012, an audit by the European Union (EU) sought to make that link between its officially completed WASH projects in sub-Saharan Africa and the reality on the ground – but found that more than half of the drinking water schemes surveyed had failed to deliver.

“Negligible positive outcomes” 

A key failure was in the management of the projects rather than the installation of the equipment.

Overall EU spending on water and sanitation projects in sub-Saharan Africa, from 2001 to 2010, amounted to more than one billion euros – and much of it is likely to have failed to produce the intended outcomes.

Hundreds of short-term WASH projects were implemented in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti – rapid construction schemes that have had little long-term impact, says Sasha Kramer, an ecologist and co-founder of the sanitation NGO Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods.

“This approach to sanitation interventions results in massive spending in the sector, impressive implementation statistics for NGOs and negligible positive outcomes for community beneficiaries,” Kramer said.

The UN in Haiti is actually blamed by many analysts for causing the world’s worst recent outbreak of cholera, which killed more than 8,000 people and infected at least 600,000.

This year, the UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact found that a government water project in Sudan’s Darfur region had created “aid dependency” with little focus on creating a durable solution.

The long list of failures is all the more painful because water and sanitation are universally recognized as critically important.

Low-quality water and sanitation systems create acute vulnerabilities during natural disasters. When earthquakes and floods strike, it is frequently the subsequent population movements, water-source contamination and unsanitary conditions that create the most dangers to human life.

Sixty percent of the world’s population has dysfunctional or non-existent sanitation, says Arno Rosemarin, a researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute. There is “no other global statistic leading to high risk that comes close to this one,” he said.

Speaking at this month’s World Water Week in Sweden, he said WASH – particularly sanitation – was “a failing chapter in human development.”

Humanitarian accounting

Donors like concrete, measurable targets. In a WASH sector looking to reduce open defecation and control human waste, this has often meant building toilets – what some analysts call a “vending machine” approach.

Rosemarin says, “There’s a big difference between having a toilet and having a toilet that works.”

In India, which has some of the highest rates of open defecation in the world, the government has embarked on a vast programme of toilet building. The results are so far extremely mixed, says Prakash Jumar from the WASH Institute in India.

Jumar says communities have often been completely left out of the implementation process; sometimes to the extent that they do not use the new toilets because they fail to realize the toilets were built for them.

Poor construction quality has meant that 30-40 percent of toilets have been abandoned, repairs are nearly impossible because of nonexistent supply chains for spare parts, and even when still standing, many are used for storage rooms rather than for defecation.

“We have a lot of lessons learned, but we are not implementing [them] in national and major sanitation programmes. We need to integrate these failures,” Jumar said.

He says the key is community engagement.

“When the community is [involved, they] often don’t then need support from the government. That was one of the major lessons learned from 10 years in the region.”

Global water sector figures say half of water projects end up failing because of a lack of community involvement.

Emergency aid 

Many WASH projects are implemented during humanitarian emergencies, when broken water and sanitation systems can create massive health risks.

“There’s a big difference between having a toilet and having a toilet that works”

But in the rush to intervene in places like refugee camps, basic steps are often not taken – like building adequate drains in areas with high rainfall and not installing flush toilets where water is scarce, according to Katarina Runeberg, an environmental advisor with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB).

There are often multiple actors seeking to respond in a crisis, with no one looking holistically at the whole WASH cycle.

And in many cases, humanitarian actors are trying to implement adequate water and sanitation systems where none existed even before the crisis.

Even before its earthquake, Haiti had the lowest sanitation coverage in the northern hemisphere and the world’s highest incidence rates of diarrhoea, for example.

Long-term perspective 

But even in the world of development, donor deadlines are frequently tight, adequate measurables can be difficult to find, and construction continues to be favoured over operation and maintenance.

“WASH systems inherently require long-term operations and maintenance. And to ensure the ongoing maintenance of a WASH system, community engagement and long-term planning are critical,” said Kramer.

But projects implemented from outside rarely have the sort of long-term funding needed for maintenance and regular assessment. One rare example is the Netherlands, which is attempting to make sure implementing partners aim for 10-year sustainability, says De Gooijer, but this can be difficult to implement.

“We are very frequently limited through time-framing that we need to complete by a certain date, and spend money by a certain date,” said Patrick Fox, an advisor to the disaster unit at the Swedish Red Cross.

They have begun using “Look Back” studies to check up on WASH projects two to five years later. In the case of their work in North Korea, they initially found 80 percent of projects were no longer functional. Problems included a lack of local familiarity with the materials used (like PVC piping), and the use of sewage as fertilizer before it was safe to do so – issues they were able to correct.

“If you think you’ve discovered something good, leave it alone in the field for two years and then see if it is working,” said Peter Morgan, an award-winning WASH inventor and scientist who has been implementing projects in Zimbabwe for decades.

A Syrian refugee in Iraq tries to unblock a ‘grey’ water channel at his camp

But donors have yet to establish concrete funding mechanisms for these kinds of long-term assessments.

This leads to the broader question of just how practical it is for outside humanitarian and development actors to be even trying to implement large-scale WASH systems.

Morgan says the success of a mass-deployment of specially designed ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines could be attributed largely to the fact that it was approved and implemented by the Zimbabwean government itself. He says governments and users need to be strongly associated with any projects if they are to avoid failure.

“Local people are incredibly innovative, and if you are a humble character you need to open your eyes and look at that,” he said. “People live there. They don’t drive off in a fancy 4×4 vehicle and vanish in the dust. They actually live there.”

Few, if any, countries can claim to have a large-scale WASH system thanks to international NGOs, which Kramer says frequently lack “cultural fluency” and have an “inability or unwillingness to engage with local communities.”

Donor pressure 

Canada’s Engineers Without Borders produces an annual “Failure Report”. The organization found that around half of all failures were not related to conditions in recipient countries, but rather derived from internal planning, communication, decision-making and personal leadership.

Yet it remains extremely difficult for UN agencies, international NGOs and local actors to say that their WASH projects were failures. Donors want to see successful track records, and no one wants to fund a fiasco.

“It’s not fashionable enough to talk about failure,” said Rosemarin

For communities receiving water and sanitation projects, the lack of honest engagement can create barriers.

“The walls of fear, distrust and misperception affect international interventions in all sectors, but are particularly disruptive to WASH interventions, where quick fixes are not possible and successful projects are completely dependent on community engagement,” said Kramer.

Otherwise, as one aid worker from Uzbekistan reported, villages may be successively visited by different NGOs installing the same sanitation project one year after the next.

“Getting negative feedback could be more valuable than the opposite,” said Morgan. “If you have failures, then the very least you can do is to find out what went wrong.”

jj/rz  source

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Guinea’s police: Police are trying to garner more community support

Posted by African Press International on September 17, 2013

Police are trying to garner more community support

CONAKRY,  – After a group of youths pillaged a restaurant in Guinea‘s capital, Conakry, in mid-August – raping three women, according to the owner – workers there decided not to pursue the case with local authorities for fear of reprisals.

“We told our staff, ‘Let’s just be glad we’re alive and leave it alone’,” said a restaurant manager who wanted to be identified only as Ibrahim. “Withimpunity as it is in Guinea, pursuing this with the police would just expose us to more danger. We’ve got no protection.”

With sentiments like these pervasive throughout the country, convincing Guineans that the police are there to serve and protect them will require a massive conversion effort. That is one objective of a new community policing programme being established under wider security sector reform efforts, following a recommendation by a joint ECOWAS, UN and African Union commission.

The UN Development Programme, European Union (EU), and the US government are funding different aspects of the initiative.

Another objective is to boost the status of the police in a former military dictatorship where, for decades, the army eclipsed its civilian counterpart. Gendarmes largely took the place of police, observers said. Guinea’s police are poorly paid, work in difficult conditions, and lack proper vehicles and communications equipment.

The police, along with soldiers and gendarmes, have a reputation for mistreating civilians. Human Rights Watch, which has investigated alleged abuses by Guinea’s security forces, says they have long been implicated in extortion, theft, kidnapping, racketeering and use of lethal force with “near-complete impunity”.

Throughout Guinea’s history, the police were “like an enemy to the people”, said Mohamed Koumadian Keïta, the mayor of Conakry’s Matoto District. He was among the Guinean officials who travelled to Burkina Faso in July to learn about the community policing programme there.

All this must change, said Daniel Oularé, coordinator of the programme at Guinea’s security and civil protection ministry. “‘Community police’ is not a new police force – it’s a new way of operating. From now on, this will not be a police known for brutality. It will be a police force that serves the public, respecting rights and upholding values like integrity, professionalism and loyalty.”

Little faith

The situation is ripe for change. A local aid worker told IRIN about a 14-year-old girl who had recently gone to the police – with the encouragement of her family – after she was gang-raped. In the past couple of years, as people have learned about their rights, they have become more inclined to turn to their local authorities, the aid worker said.

Policemen and gendarmes are also working with aid groups to protect therights of minors in trouble with the law.

But in general, Guineans have little faith in the police as protectors.

The owner of the looted Conakry restaurant said she planned to buy clubs and other weapons, and that she would add layers of brick and barbed wire to the wall around her building. She and other Guineans IRIN spoke to said they would sooner count on personal guards or neighbourhood self-defence groups for security than the police.

“They show up late, if they show up at all, and usually they’re after money,” one said.

Guineans IRIN spoke with said that, when it comes to security, they feel largely on their own. It is common to hear people say: “The state is absent.”

In Conakry’s Simbaya Marché neighbourhood, known as a haven for thieves, Mabinti Bangoura said state security officials “have abandoned us into the hands of criminals”.

Guinea’s police lack competent and trained personnel, whether for public security, legal matters or maintaining order, Philippe Van Damme, head of the EU delegation in Guinea, told government officials at the launch of a pilot training project meant to support police reform efforts. The EU-supported project will run for 18 months in Conakry’s Ratoma and Matoto districts and in N’Zérékoré, in Guinea’s Forest Region.

A survey of police personnel in Ratoma and Matoto was conducted to learn about their capacities and functions to help guide training, said Marc Dubois, coordinator of the EU pilot. It showed that seven percent were illiterate. “Some can’t read or write but that doesn’t mean they can’t be effective in relating with their communities and helping improve security,” he said.

Events in Guinea going back to citizen uprisings in 2007 have shown the police incapable of maintaining order, Matoto mayor Keïta told IRIN. “We’ve got to bring this [community policing] to Guinea because right now there is no security for the people,” he said.

Community buy-in needed

Keïta said communication is essential, but there must also be trust. “The criminals do not live in the bush – they live right here among us. For now, people are afraid to point them out. There is no support system. We must bring the population and the police together so the people will work with them, inform them, so the population can participate in their security. This can never happen if people do not trust the police.”

As part of the project, the NGO Coginta meets with residents to hear about their experiences with, and perceptions of, the police.

Keïta said that in rural areas, communities have traditional mechanisms to ward off theft and other crimes. “We have done community policing – just not calling it by that name,” he told IRIN, saying Guineans can restore security by returning to these community methods.

Officials working on the project say the plan is to establish neighbourhood committees that can help stop problems at their source. Oularé said there would also be ways for citizens to report poor performance by police officers. “The police will now be accountable to the people,” he said.

For community policing to work, said Conakry resident Chaïkou Baldé, the people must be convinced the police will provide protection. “For now, they are used to police taking their money or detaining people arbitrarily. The key to success here will be human resources.”

np/aj/rz  source

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Better projects needed – Despite the odds, most youth are optimistic.

Posted by African Press International on September 16, 2013

Selling second-hand clothes. Guinea’s youth say they have been side-lined

CONAKRY,  – As Guinea has moved from crisis to crisis, with development perpetually stalled, its youth have been side-lined, lacking the means to make a decent living or to take the mineral-rich country forward.

This is the view of many young Guineans and aid experts, who say the country lacks a comprehensive strategy for its youth, who make up more than half the population.

“Efforts by the government are one-off, usually projects supported by NGOs,” said Mamadou Dian Baldé, head of protection at the international NGO Terre des Hommes (TdH) in Guinea. “Programmes are fragmented. There is no dynamic, global policy coordinated by the state.”

Guinean sociologist Alpha Amadou Bano Barry says the “multiplicity” of projects for the youth has young people chasing initiatives and trying to adapt to them. It should be the other way around, say young Guineans; programmes should begin with the youths’ reality, needs and ideas.

“Those who want to help the youth need to come hear us,” said Tambaké Tounkara, coordinator of Guinea’s chapter of the regional group Association of Child and Youth Workers (AEJT). He said projects for youth are often conceived by outsiders without youths’ participation.

Better projects needed 

The UN has just completed a study of government, NGO and UN projects targeting the country’s youth, to catalogue what is underway and better coordinate efforts, according to Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator Anthony Ohemeng-Boamah.

“In Guinea as in other countries you have a ministry for youth, you have a ministry that deals with vocational training, a ministry that deals with education, another for social affairs – and all these ministries tend to deal with aspects of the youth problem,” he told IRIN. He said the government needs to fuse these different strategies to begin responding effectively to youth challenges like unemployment, high dropout rates and violence.

He said some UN projects have been fragmented and short-term. “In many UN-targeted interventions, we have provided jobs or training at critical moments in order to prevent youth being used for demonstrations and, potentially, violence. They are all pilot schemes, and the question becomes how you scale them up – hence this study.”

The youth unemployment rate in Guinea is estimated at 60 percent, according to government statistics. Guinea’s Peacebuilding Commission, created in 2011, listed youth and women’s employment as one of three top priorities, along with national reconciliation and security sector reform.

Hopes dashed 

When Guinea held its first legitimate presidential election, in 2010, youths had high hopes. But the transition has yet to be completed – the country still has no elected parliament – and, as the European Union says in a recent paper, this institutional gap, poor governance and general insecurity have severely hampered Guinea’s development.

“Today the refrain is ‘wait – after the legislative elections, things will improve for the youth’,” said AEJT member Charles Keïta. “But the youths want to know: wait until when?”

“This country’s greatest wealth is its youth – not gold or diamonds.”

Amara Camara, 19, quit his studies and left N’zérékoré for the capital, Conakry, to find work to help his aging parents. He sells clothing in a market known as “Bordeaux”, where vendors, most of them university graduates, sell used clothes and shoes.

The government says that after the legislative elections, corporations will come and there will be mechanisms to help us apply and get jobs,” he said. “People are preparing their CVs and hoping, but many are sceptical because, for as long as we can recall in Guinea, people get jobs through connections, not competence. We’ll see.”

Government spokesperson Albert Damantang Camara says the government’s principal enemy is time. “To say to youths – who for years lack[ed] training and jobs – that they must wait some more, that’s difficult. To tell them that the most important deadline right now is the legislative elections and that after that we’ll see the prospects, this adds to their scepticism and their thinking that they are being manipulated. Unfortunately, these are necessary steps.”

He acknowledges that efforts for the youth have been disjointed.

“To a certain extent, the young people are right. Many African countries have been in crisis, and for a long time the only sector that generated employment was the humanitarian or social affairs sector, led by NGOs that come with targeted and limited programmes with jobs that are not sustainable,” he said.

“Today, despite that we’re seeing growth, this has not yet translated into employment opportunity and creation of wealth. In Guinea, we’ve got many long-term programmes underway that will create jobs once the political and institutional environment lends itself to that,” he said. He referred to the amended 2013 mining code, which pushes companies to prioritize the hiring and training of local Guineans, as well as ongoing work with other businesses to train Guinean youths.


But another question is whether Guinea’s young people will be equipped for those jobs.

The International Monetary Fund said in a recent paper that Guinea must make reforms to ensure people have the right skills for the job market in emerging sectors such as agriculture, tourism and mining.

“The lack of vocational training programs in secondary and tertiary education leads to an excessive orientation towards general education with a focus on humanities,” the IMF says. “This is a serious problem for a country that requires manpower with technical and scientific knowledge and competencies…for its economic and social development.”

Government spokesperson Camara, who is also the minister of technical education and professional training, told IRIN the government is working to link training and education with the requirements of the job market. “We are all working toward that goal. It’s a long-term undertaking.”

AEJT’s Tounkara pointed out that the government and civil society must also have a plan for those who have not received formal educations.

Daily fight 

Despite the odds, most youth are optimistic.

“Here’s a positive thing we’ve got going for us,” said Fatoumata Binta Sow, 17, a member of AEJT. “We are here, and we continue the fight every day.”

Still, there are youths who turn to violence, abetted by Guinea’s socio-political instability and culture of impunity.

“Indeed there is a strong link between idleness and violence,” said Mohamed Sylla, who works at the mayor’s office in Conakry and runs a youth-led NGO. “A young man with an empty stomach is a rebel. His parents or other authorities just can’t reach him. He is idle, prone to drug use, and ready to lash out at the slightest trigger.”

AEJT coordinator Tounkara said that whenever there are political demonstrations, many youths join out of pure exasperation. “Many have no interest whatsoever in or even knowledge of the candidate or the cause of the day – they simply take advantage of the demonstration to vent their frustration.”

“We can deal with poverty, but not extreme poverty,” Tounkara said. “We can accept lacking some things, but not lacking everything.”

By neglecting the youth, authorities are undermining the country’s long-term prospects, he pointed out. “People mustn’t kid themselves. This country’s greatest wealth is its youth – not gold or diamonds.”

TdH’s Baldé said an important first step in reassuring the country’s youth is simply to reach out to them. “Civil society and the authorities must acknowledge that they have failed the youth. That’s the first step in gaining their trust.”

np/aj/rz  source

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Trauma risk for unaccompanied asylum-seeking adolescents

Posted by African Press International on August 21, 2013

Many Afghan children face deportation when caught overseas


  • Thousands of Afghan minors seek EU asylum
  • Unemployment risk as international troops pull out
  • Trauma risk for unaccompanied asylum-seeking adolescents
  • Conflict, displacement could affect next generation

NANGARHAR,  – Six years ago, when Najib* was 15, Taliban fighters came to his home in Shinwar District* in the eastern province of Nangarhar telling him to join them. After repeated visits, his family sought a way for Najib to escape, and paid a smuggler to take him to the UK.

Six years on, he has just arrived back in his village, having been deported from the UK, but the threats to get him to join the Taliban are now greater than ever, he says.

“They’re not like the Taliban that were in the area before,” Najib told IRIN. “They are all foreign fighters who have come from the mountains. These guys will just kill you for no reason.”

Najib is not the only one on the move or considering his options: Growing insecurity ahead of the pull-out of international forces is driving thousands of Afghanistan’s children to seek new lives outside the country.

Of the 893,700 claims submitted in 2012, around 21,300 were for “unaccompanied or separated” children, most from Afghanistan and Somalia, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). That is the highest figure recorded since the UN started counting (in 2006).

According to a European Commission memo, Afghan unaccompanied minors, particularly boys, have become the largest group of unaccompanied minors from outside the European Union (EU) in Europe over the past few years. Of the 12,225 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers recorded by European national governments in 2011, 5,655 (46 percent) were from Afghanistan.

Mohammad Akram’s son, Mohammad Yahya, from Qarghayo District in Nangarhar Province, left Afghanistan when he was 15.

Refugee info (2012)
10.5 million Refugees worldwide
893,700 Asylum claims
21,300 Claims by “unaccompanied or separated” children
2.6 million Afghanistan refugees overseas
5.7 million Afghan migrant and refugee returns since 2001
Source: UNHCR

“Some of his classmates left Afghanistan and then when they arrived in Belgium they called him, pressuring him to come,” Akram told IRIN. “Finally my son left.”

In Turkey’s port city of Izmir, the 15-year-old found smugglers to take him to an island off Greece. The cost was US$2,000, to be paid upon arrival. Yahya never arrived; on the way the boat capsized killing all but two of its 30 passengers. His body was never found.

“We have been waiting for two months. One or two bodies turn up every day, but not my son’s,” said Akram, crying.

“It is extremely sad to see the kind of dangers these people are getting into when they are crossing waters,” the UNHCR representative in Afghanistan, Bo Schack, told IRIN. “There are major issues that they face along the journey. And, when they arrive there are sometimes issues of violence and sexual abuse against them at the asylum centres.”

Major refugee source

Afghanistan has 2.6 million refugees overseas, according to UNHCR, making it the leading source of refugees in the world, a position it has held for the past 32 years.

On average one in four refugees are from Afghanistan; 95 percent of them live in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran. Germany hosts the largest population of Afghans outside the region.

Insecurity and unemployment back home remain high; according to the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and the Disabled (MOLSAMD), four million Afghans are officially unemployed countrywide, and the real number is almost certainly far higher.

Thirty-six percent of the country’s population cannot meet their basic needs, with many more Afghans “highly susceptible” to poverty, according to a World Bank report.

And as international troops and organizations downsize, they take with them jobs that currently employ many of the country’s young people.

Mohammad Yahya’s siblings remember their brother, 15, who drowned, on his way to seek asylum in Greece

“Around 40,000-50,000 young Afghans who speak English and are good at computers work with NATO troops. When the troops leave, they will be jobless and it’s risky for them to stay in the country because they worked for foreigners,” the head of Interpol in Afghanistan, Gen Aminullah Armarkhel, told IRIN.

“The most capable young Afghans with university degrees can’t find jobs… then you have unqualified people filling positions. This is why we are seeing an increase of young people leaving the country.”

Afghans told IRIN human smugglers ask anywhere from $10,000-20,000 for a passage to Europe. However, as in Yahya’s case, there is no guarantee anyone will make it alive.

Upon arrival

Last year in the UK, a Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) reportfound that hundreds of children travelling unaccompanied to the UK received inadequate support from the state.

Upon arrival, children faced intensive interviews. The report criticized the lack of interpreters to help with translation, inappropriate accommodation, staff ill-equipped to care for traumatized children, and concerns over educational services.

Also, earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) found Italy summarily sending unaccompanied children (and adult asylum seekers) back to Greece – a country in which asylum system and detention conditions have led several EU states to suspend their transfers to the country.

According to the HRW report, most of the asylum seekers interviewed were Afghan boys “fleeing danger, conflict, and poverty”.

Unaccompanied Afghan asylum-seeking adolescents living in the UK are a high-risk group for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with many having been exposed to extreme violence, physical and sexual abuse, and rape.
Teenage migrants “trapped” in Greece

By early evening, Alexandra Park in central Athens starts to fill up with young, male migrants. They gather on benches, and some even kick a ball around, but they are not here for recreation – this is where they sleep, hoping their numbers will provide some protection from sexual predation and racist attacks. full report

The children experience significantly greater symptoms of PTSD and depression compared to accompanied asylum-seeking children, found a new study which looked at the sleeping patterns of unaccompanied Afghan asylum-seeking children.

Returnees at risk

Many returning Afghan child migrants and refugees face the risk of rejection by their families, kidnapping threats, beatings and exploitation, often resulting in them trying to escape the country again, according to a Maastricht University report.

“I’m scared to go back to my village in Shinwar,” Najib told IRIN just prior to returning to his village. “Of course all the villagers know I was in London. My life is in danger. Kidnappers will think my family has money and because I speak English the Taliban will suspect me.”

Najib said that when his asylum application was denied in the UK, the immigration authorities told him Shinwar District was peaceful and it was safe for him to return.

Hostel idea

A new initiative to improve reintegration prospects for deported, unaccompanied children in Afghanistan is being considered by the governments of Sweden, Norway, Holland and the UK.

It involves the setting up of a hostel for such children in Kabul, where they can stay until either they are picked up by their families, or where they can stay until they turn 18.

Nearly all Afghans – 96 percent, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross – have been affected in some way by the ongoing armed conflict, with 76 percent having experienced displacement.

Around 43 percent of the population is under 15: the ill-effects of conflict and displacement will have a strong impact on the next generation of adults.

*not a real name

bm/jj/cb  source

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Trouble in Egypt continues

Posted by African Press International on August 2, 2013

CAIRO,  – After a weekend of violence that brought the country back to the brink, Egypt now stands at an impasse: Tens of thousands of supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi remain in the streets of the capital demanding his return to power. The army ousted the democratically-elected Islamist after millions of people took to the streets opposing his autocratic and exclusionary politics, and refuses to ba ck down. 

On 27 July, dozens of Morsi supporters were killed – most of them shot in the head or chest, human rights groups say – after they tried to extend their protest outside its main sit-in area in northeast Cairo. Since Morsi was deposed on 3 July, at least 281 people have died, according to Health Ministry figures, in clashes either between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters or between Morsi supporters and the police responding together with armed locals in civilian clothes.

The gulf between both sides is growing, as is dangerous rhetoric that could incite further violence. On Egyptian TV, the Muslim Brotherhood is referred to as a “cancer” that must be wiped out. On the stage at the pro-Morsi tent city, Islamist leaders fire up crowds by labelling those who support the coup as apostates. Many Egyptians fear an impending civil war, though analysts say this outcome is very unlikely.

Still, violence and political instability since a popular uprising deposed Egypt’s long-time strongman Hosni Mubarak in early 2011 have destroyed the economy; and the poor have been the first to pay the price.

“The economy is already on edge and things will deteriorate even more if a political way out is not found,” Rashad Abdo, a leading economist and head of local think tank Egyptian Economic Forum, told IRIN.

Both sides have what one analyst described as “maximalist” demands: the new interim government wants the Muslim Brotherhood to completely accept their roadmap for the future; the Brotherhood refuses to take part in any dialogue until Morsi is reinstated as president.

So what is the way out?

De-escalation: The first step, analysts agree, is to de-escalate the tension. A security solution to the problem (for example, clearing the Muslim Brotherhood sit-in by force) would lead to “catastrophe”, according to former diplomat Ibrahim Youssri, who served under Mubarak.

Human Rights Watch has called on the army to cease using live ammunition to control the crowds (though the Interior Minister denied having done this), and Amnesty International encouraged the authorities to issue “clear instructions to security forces to refrain from the use of disproportionate force”.

According to Oxford Analytica, a global analysis and advisory firm, there is a high probability of Islamist retaliation if the army continues its current course. This could involve supporting a jihadist anti-army rebellion in Sinai and/or acts of terrorism in other parts of Egypt, including Cairo, it said.

On the Brotherhood side, one form of de-escalation would be a condemnation of all violence, including militant activity in the Sinai.

Confidence-building measures: As it stands now, members of the Muslim Brotherhood see themselves in an “existential crisis”, according to Yasser El-Shimy, an analyst with the International Crisis Group (ICG). “They fear that if they went home, that would be it: there would be nothing to prevent the security forces from authorizing a major crackdown and completely excluding them – not just from politics, but also cracking down on the organization’s social and religious activities. So they need to have some kind of guarantees that they are not going to be persecuted.”

A few steps to help build trust, he and high-level officials from the UN and European Union (EU) have recommended, include: releasing Morsi, who has been detained by the military in an unknown location since his ouster, or at the very least transparently reviewing his case; releasing other jailed Muslim Brotherhood leaders rounded up since 3 July; and launching an impartial and transparent investigation into the killings of Morsi supporters.

In return, the Muslim Brotherhood should call off its protests, or at the very least call on its supporters not to extend rallies beyond their sit-in location at Raba’a al-Adaweya square in Cairo’s Nasr City neighbourhood. Such roaming protests have paralysed traffic, terrorized civilians in the area and at times provoked security forces.

Liberal youth behind the original revolution in 2011 have also called on the army to demonstrate clearly that it does not want to come back to power. (A military council ruled Egypt following Mubarak’s downfall until Morsi was elected)

“Neither the Brotherhood nor the military represent the ideals of the revolution of the Egyptian people,” said Eslam Ahmed, a liberal activist who helped form a new movement called Third Square, opposed to both Muslim Brotherhood and military rule.

Mediation: All parties agree that some form of mediation is necessary. According to Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a leading democracy advocate, even the Brotherhood has privately reached out to him to act as a mediator between the movement and the new government, though the Brotherhood denies this.

One main challenge is the lack of an acceptable arbiter. “On the domestic front, there is no party left to play the role: not the army, not the Azhar [highest Muslim authority in the country], not the church, nothing,” El-Shimy said. “They have all been incredibly politicized and have taken one side or the other.” Even Atef Al Hadidi, a researcher from al-Azhar, suggested international mediation would be preferable.

The Arab League has also been ruled out by many analysts, its members divided about developments in Egypt. Several players have pointed to the EU as a foreign force more favourably viewed by both sides than the US (EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is the only foreign diplomat to have met Morsi during his ongoing detention). The ICG’s El-Shimy suggests the UN could also play a role. But both sides must drop all conditions before sitting at the table, Al Hadidi said. 

Meanwhile, some worry that by “succumbing to the Brotherhood”, as the former diplomat Ibrahim put it, the government would be emboldening other movements into potential opposition, including harder-line Salafists.

Roadmap to elections: The Brotherhood has demanded that all recent measures taken by the army – the ouster of Morsi, the dissolution of parliament and the suspension of the constitution – be reversed. But it has suggested that after Morsi is re-instated, Egyptians can legally decide whether he stays in power through a popular referendum. El-Shimy calls this “wishful thinking”.

Islamist thinker Mohamed Selim Al Awa has proposed a slightly more conciliatory plan, which involves a reinstated Morsi delegating his powers to an independent prime minister who would pave the way for parliamentary elections within 60 days, followed by presidential elections. This proposal also includes amending articles in a constitution pushed through by an Islamist-dominated parliament, which – while approved in a national referendum last year – remains controversial.

But this plan is opposed by Egypt’s liberal and secular political camps as “one last attempt by the deposed president and his party to go around the will the people expressed on 30 June,” according to Ahmed Shaaban, a leftist activist, referring to the day millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand Morsi’s ouster. “They just want to go back to power through a backdoor.”

ICG proposes something slightly different: a revival of the constitution as a temporary measure (in order to protect freedoms and rights in the interim) until a more permanent consensus-based constitution can be drafted; a formal resignation by Morsi, in order to end questions around the legitimacy of the new authority; handover of power to a consensus prime minister; the launch of a process to amend the constitution; and finally, elections.

But this approach, too, faces a challenge in the lack of leaders among Egypt’s politicians. In addition, according to some views, a consensus candidate would undo the expression of public anger against Morsi, as exhibited in the 30 June protests: “There cannot be a power-sharing plan because this plan will overlook the facts on the ground,” Ibrahim said.

A return to politics: Because of this leadership deficit, an institutional consensus-building mechanism will have to be adopted in order to ensure a swift return to politics. “The country cannot continue to be governed on the streets, by the streets,” El-Shimy said. Nor can a “winner-take-all” mentality continue to rule.

“The country cannot continue to be governed on the streets, by the streets.”

In a best-case scenario, Oxford Analytica says, talks would bring Islamists into the transition process as part of a national unity government.

An important part of the puzzle will be re-establishing the credibility of the democratic process in the eyes of the public, especially the Brotherhood. “Suppose we accept to be part of any election in the future in the light of the transition plan. Will the army accept the results of the election if we win it? I doubt this,” said Taher Abdel Mohsen, a Brotherhood leader and a member of the dissolved upper house of parliament, known as the Shura Council.

National reconciliation: Most of the steps above are pre-requisites for true national reconciliation, experts say. On 24 July, the interim presidency announced a transitional justice plan, with the aim of ushering in an era of truth, presidential adviser Mustafa Hegazi told a press conference. Using national reconciliation in South Africa as a model, the plan includes the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission that will investigate crimes committed during the past few weeks, as well as under the tenures of both Morsi and Mubarak. The commission would also create a legal framework for transitional justice, which would result in amnesty for some people and prosecution for others, Hegazi said.

Since the original 2011 uprising, calls for a broad-based, non-political transitional justice process have not been heeded. “Crimes continue to happen and corruption continues to thrive, simply because we have not launched this plan,” said Nasser Amin, a lawyer and rights activist who has been party to meetings at the presidency about the plan. “Egypt will not move a step forward without this transitional justice… People have to pay for their mistakes or there can never be reconciliation.”

But for former constitutional judge Tahani Al Gibaly, the players are not yet ready: “I do not think it is easy to reconcile while one party [the Muslim Brotherhood] refuses to admit its mistakes.”

In any case, the Muslim Brotherhood has so far boycotted those meetings: “The army must first show respect for the ballot boxes and then we can talk about reconciliation,” Abdel Mohsen said. Without their participation, any national reconciliation process is bound to fail, experts said.

Just days before the latest violence, interim vice-president Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on his Twitter feed: “Transitional justice and national reconciliation based on inclusiveness are only option. The sooner we realize this the more lives are saved.”

ae-ha/cb  source


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Serbia and Kosovo closer to the EU

Posted by African Press International on July 2, 2013

– The statement of the EU Council marks an important step forward for European cooperation for Serbia and Kosovo. This progress is based on the two countries’ effort to normalise their relations. I commend the Governments of Kosovo and Serbia for the courage and leadership they have shown in this process, said Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide

The heads of government in the EU agreed today to open accession negotiations with Serbia. They also decided to open negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo.

– The Governments in Belgrade and Prishtina have shown great determination and leadership in their efforts to normalise relations between Kosovo and Serbia and to facilitate practical cooperation between their two countries, said Eide.

Closer cooperation with the EU with a view to membership is of key importance for both Kosovo and Serbia. Both countries consider EU membership important in order to advance economic and social progress in their countries and maintain political stability in the region.

I also would like to commend the EU and Catherine Ashton for their active facilitation of the understanding between Kosovo and Serbia and for their support for the two government’s efforts to implement the understanding. This has led to both countries making historic steps towards EU-membership, said Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide.

Norway is continuing its close cooperation with the countries of the Western Balkans and the EU in order to support further positive developments in the region.




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Norway congratulates Croatia on EU membership

Posted by African Press International on July 1, 2013

“It is a pleasure to be able to congratulate Croatia on becoming the EU’s 28th member state. The country has implemented an extensive programme of reforms. Croatia will soon become a member of the EEA and as such will also be a key partner for Norway,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

Today Croatia became the 28th member state of the European Union. It is thus the second country from the former Yugoslavia to join the Union.

“I am impressed by the fact that Croatia has succeeded in implementing an extensive programme of political and social reforms at a time of economic crisis. This shows both determination and political courage,” Mr Eide said.

Croatia plays an important regional role in the Western Balkans and its membership of the EU is also expected to have a positive impact on reform processes in the other countries in the region. Norway has enjoyed close cooperation with Croatia since the country became independent in 1991.

“The enlargement of the EU into South East Europe also has considerable symbolic value. Only a little  over 20 years ago the region was ravaged by war and conflict. Croatia’s accession to the EU will be a source of inspiration to the other countries in the region in their efforts towards closer European integration. This in turn will promote development and stability in the Western Balkans,” Mr Eide said.




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